Skip to main content

Checking and changing the title deeds

If you own your home jointly with another person and that person dies, you need to check the title deeds to the property to find out whether or not you will automatically inherit their share or have to change the title deed. This page explains what title deeds are, how you can get hold of them and what the language used in the deeds means.

What are title deeds and where can I find them?

Title deeds are the legal documents which show who officially owns a property. If you, or the person who died, took out a mortgage to buy the house, the bank or building society will have the title deeds.

If there is no mortgage, a solicitor might have the title deeds in a safe place such as their office, or they may be kept somewhere safe in your house, for example, in a safe. You should look in all these places.

If you can't find your title deeds, don't panic. It is possible to get copies and your solicitor will be able to arrange this for you. There is a charge for getting copies of your deeds and your solicitor will be able to tell you how much it will cost.

Read the page on title deeds to find out more about title deeds and what they say.

Why do the words used in the title deeds matter?

If you partly own the house and the person who died also owned a share, the wording in the title deeds is really important because it tells you whether or not you have automatically inherited the rest of the house from the person who died.

When you bought the house with the person who died, you probably had a conveyancing solicitor working for you. A conveyancing solicitor knows all about the law of buying and selling houses. If you bought the house in both your names, the solicitor would have explained to you at the time that there are different ways the title deeds can be worded so that, if one of you dies, either:

  • the other owner will automatically inherit their share of the house (a 'survivorship destination'), or
  • the other owner will not automatically inherit the share of the house (a 'general destination').

People with quite a lot of savings or other assets sometimes pick the second option so they don't have to pay extra tax when they die. If you want further information on this, a solicitor or financial adviser will be able to help you.

I can't remember what happened when we bought the house! What should I do?

If can't remember what happened when you bought the house, you can take your title deeds to a solicitor and they can explain them.

If your solicitor tells you that you have a 'survivorship destination' in your deeds, you will automatically inherit the other share of the property when the co-owner dies.

On the other hand, if your solicitor tells you that there is no survivorship clause or that there is a 'general destination' in the deeds, you will have to dig a bit deeper to find out whether you will get the other share of the house. The answer will either be in the other person's will (if they left one) or will be decided by some legal rules that apply when a person dies without leaving a will. This is called intestacy. Find out more about what a will can tell you in our section on wills.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're England

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us

Was this page helpful?

This feedback tool can't offer advice. If you still need help, please call our free housing helpline on 0808 800 4444

Would you recommend Shelter Scotland's website to a friend, colleague or family member?
(0 - not at all likely, 10 - extremely likely)

Your feedback is being submitted

Success! Thank you for your feedback.

If you'd like to hear more about our work at Shelter Scotland, you can sign up to receive updates on our campaigns page.

Sorry, there was a problem sending your feedback to us. Please try again or contact us via the website if this error persists.

The fight isn't over - support us this summer

far from fixed campaign logo
It’s a disgrace that people are still homeless in Scotland today. Join our campaign
It’s a disgrace that people are still homeless in Scotland today.
Volunteer
Find out more about volunteering with Shelter Scotland
Volunteer with Shelter Scotland
Have you had a bad housing experience? Tell us about your story.
Share your story of a bad housing experience
£